This chapter has been a long time coming, my bad. I have been really busy and this needed quite a bit of editing and still some to come I fear. I have written two more chapters and these are being edited over the next few weeks so stay posted.
NEW readers remember to start reading at Chapter I (The Hall) Use the side menus
CHAPTER VI “Jessica’s Bad Hair day”
Sunday 9am, the morning after infection.
Jessica had initially not wanted to come out today but Peter attempted to dial the guilt trip approach up a notch.
“You owe me girlfriend, you couldn’t go out last week because the championships were on, and the week before that the Psych exams were on, and now you need to rest?”, Peter whined in a desperate questioning tone. Jessica was watching his body language, the way he would fold his arms when he got like this. At this point she could do anything, he was like play dough. He knew he was working the guilt button, but he really did need a break and a picnic on the hump with his favourite girl he thought would be perfect. She did want to spend some time with him so she let him think he had got her.
“Just not the whole day though, a quick walk up, hour on top and back down for afternoon tea, alright Pete?” They lived close to each other and both were off the main drag, farms. Last night’s news had not reached them yet. If Pete had turned the radio on this morning he would made different decisions.
“I guess I can’t complain, so yes to that, lets go, I’ve got the car packed already.” Pete said with his hand on her shoulder ushering her outside but not before she ducked back inside and grabbed something from the fridge.
The hump was nothing more than a two thousand foot hill with a sheer rock face on the south side that reached a modest two hundred feet to the forest below. Sometimes climbers could be seen on the face but not today, the rock was wetter than usual from the rain the day before and that meant the moss would be even more treacherous. To get to the top was easy enough, and lots of the local kids would drive their four wheel drives up to the old log dump and walk the rest. It was popular with abseilers for this reason.
Most of the logs that were no good to the saw millers were left behind and gradually cleaned out by fire wood gatherers or woodworkers so now it was a quite large clearing with a few old camp fires and the usual broken bottles.
The track was easy enough, it meandered northward along the base of the rock face and then swung west half a kilometer up a hill so steep, that your face would be only inches away from the ground at times and you would find yourself walking with both hands on the ground in front of you. The walk up usually took about 50 minutes if you cheated and drove up the first bit to the clearing. Peter and Jessica talked a bit about uni and how she was having difficulty keeping up with all the work they handed out as they walked. Didn’t the lectures realize that students need some time off too.
The couple stayed up the top for most of the morning savoring the incredible view and drinking a glass of wine each. Jessica had some plastic wine glasses with lids so she would fill each with cold champagne and wrap them in a tea towel and ice.
“Nothing like a wee drop at the drop don’t you think?”, she said gesturing with her glass at the panorama below.
“Yeah and I am not going any closer to that edge after a couple of these”, said Peter holding his glass up to clink with hers before taking a swig of the cold bubbly liquid.
“Don’t tell me you’re afraid of a little certain death are you?”, Jessica said walking to the edge of the cliff and looking down and steadying herself by putting the hand with the wine in it on the land side of the drop as if to use it as a counter balance.
Jesus will you come away from the edge, you’re freaking me out”, Peter said more than a little worried. He hated heights, he could go up in a cable car or a plane, he had even parachuted, but never would he put his body near a drop without something tying him down… Stopping him from falling.
“I’ll give you a lolly pop right here if you can sit on the edge”
“God damn it Jess, I wish you wouldn’t do that, you know how much heights freak me out. Not even for that of which you offer, would you get me over there, you know you are safe on that one, you Succubus!”
“I guess you’ll just have to settle for a sweaty Betty on the grass”, she said walking back over with a red checked picnic blanket that she spread out on the grassy moss just beneath a low bushy tree. She had deliberately worn her most revealing raged denim micro shorts. The same shorts the girls in the seventies wore but back then they were called hot pants. They had tattered ends with splits in the sides. The rear was cut to show the fold where the buttock began. Peter had enjoyed the walk up the mountain behind her. She rarely wore them in public because of the way some more boganite guys would just stare at her bum. She looked at him with his favourite cheeky grin as she raised her eyebrows and patted the blanket next to her.
Peter began to kiss her almost politely, almost a formal kiss, a no tongues and touch lips slow dance. This was the thing that always fired Jessica’s passion, but for Peter the magic wasn’t in this, almost kissing crap. He was a no tongues barred type of kisser, open mouthed and mix that spit up man.
As they made love on the grass, a cool wind caressing their bodies, he began to wonder if this would be the one he ended up spending a lot more nights with over the years. Time passed slowly as they danced in the shade of the bush. Pete had thought they may have both dozed off after the passion was spent. The wine had made them sleepy.
“I think the weather might turn soon, what do you think, Pete?”
“Yeah, I think a bit more danger is okay, given the circumstances”
After a couple of glasses of wine and an hour of carnal gymnastics and a nap in the fresh mountain air Jessica and Pete, as he preferred to be called, decided to begin the walk down the hill. They were about two hundred metres from the top when Jessica suddenly crouched and held out her arm to block Pete’s path.
“Why are you st…….” Pete said defiantly, now inconvenienced because he had been stopped as he was just getting back into the rhythm of the down hill part of the walk.
“What’s up” Pete whispered”,
“You hear that?”
Pete could just make out faint voices gradually getting louder. “Retards and rednecks the place is full of them so what?”
“ I think we should go around them, they sound kind of off their faces” said Jessica. He had no time for drunks, thought they looked and behaved like complete morons. He especially didn’t like being here alone and this close to dark with this attractive young female and a bunch of lunatics on the piss on the loose.
“Ok, your call lets avoid them”
“Your welcome”, he said with a grin gently clutching her hand.
As they detoured to get around the clearing with the rednecks Jessica caught a glimpse of one of them through the trees. She just had the overwhelming urge to scream, almost did, but she managed to stay calm, scream later, she thought.
At the very moment Jessica decided to scream she saw the result of that decision in her minds eye and it was projected to every corner of her vision. This saved her life.
Instead she kinda hunkered down a bit and actually crept in a little closer. Pete wanted to go in closer with her, to support her, but he was shitting himself with fear, so thought it safer for both of them if he hung back.
Now she could see something was wrong, very wrong with these guys, they looked like shit, they looked, filthy, like a mechanic in the same unwashed tattered overalls for five years, they looked… Well, dead!
She also thought they acted like they were looking for someone, anyone and she was suddenly not in a very social mood. They were both jumpy now, and pretty scared.
“What do you think is wrong with them whispered Peter?” Don’t know and I certainly don’t want to ask them any time soon, do you?”…
They walked the last few hundred metres, in almost speechless silence, towards the little clearing where they left the car,
“Fuck” Jessica spat as she pointed into the clearing ahead. Their car was parked in by the white beaten up 85 Pajero. There were beer cans all over the place and there was blood all over Pete’s new Subaru Forester,
“Fucking rednecks, must have killed a roo and cleaned the thing on my car”,
“There’s no fur though Pete”, Jessica said gesturing toward the car.
They were suddenly aware of the silence in the bush, “can you hear that?”
“Can’t hear a damn thing” replied Pete.
“That’s what I mean, there are no bird sounds, or anything” said Jessica.
“Let’s just get that heap of junk out of the way and get out of here Pete, this place is suddenly giving me the creeps”. Pete was already at the Pajero,
“It’s locked, Jess!”
“Shit, what now?”, she said as she moved over to where Pete was.
“Don’t know, we sure as hell can’t drive around it, a nice drop over the cliff on one side and trees on the other” he said.
“Look!, the keys are in there in the ignition, those dickheads locked themselves out so they got pissed”, said Jessica with her hands cupped on either side of her face, which was pressed up against the side window to avoid the reflections.
“Or the other way around if you know what I mean.”
“More likely,” she added.
Suddenly the sound of branches moving and twigs snapping jolted them from their discussion. The
party boys were coming back down. Suddenly one of them stumbled into the clearing and stopped, swaying from side to side and looking straight at Pete.
“Fuck” he said under his breath. Jessica had her mouth open as if to scream, her eyes were showing the intoxicating effects of terror and the bewilderment of someone who could not quite comprehend the sight before her. After what felt like minutes she snapped out of it and grabbed Pete’s hand and slowly began to walk backwards past the Pajero and away from fractured Freddy.
Suddenly, one of Freddy’s friends burst into the clearing followed by a forth one. They all stopped, tilted their heads slightly to the side, chin slightly up and sniffed at the air. With their dark dead eyes aimed at Pete and Jessica they made horrid gurgling sounds that turned into an angry roar as they launched themselves toward the pair with all the might of footballers in grand final mode going for the last deciding touchdown.
“Run!” screamed Pete as they both took off down the track leading back to the main road, too terrified to look back.
The first of the rednecks tripped as he rounded the Pajero losing his footing and crashing heavily to the ground as the other two used his back as a spring board to gain some ground in their quest to catch up to Pete and Jessica.
“Shit they are gaining on us Jess, how can that be, they looked completely fucked up” said Pete as he desperately scanned the ground for something he could use as a weapon. Nothing but useless sticks here or rocks. The were only a few metres away from what looked an impossible fight
“Jess, we gotta find a place to hide, we can’t outrun these guys we got to disappear before they close that last fifty metres” Pete said looking around for the best way to go. Their hunters were still out of sight but they could hear them coming.
“That way, the bush is thicker there,” said Jessica pointing to the east towards a rocky section of mountain surrounded by thick shrub, “Shh! We gotta keep it quiet from here on, okay?” she added pulling on Pete’s arm. He seemed transfixed on the noise of the four infected psychos clambering down the mountain track to the west of them.
They managed to get into the thicket before they were seen and they climbed on top of a small outcrop of rocks, about three metres above the track. It gave them a good view of the surrounding area with some cover behind the shrubs. Peering between the foliage they saw the four of them go past at full speed then stop suddenly coming back up the track and in full view only around five metres from where they crouched, terrified and motionless.
The four were looking the opposite direction when Jessica threw a good sized rock over their heads and off to the side a little. Even though they should have seen it they didn’t, until it hit the bushes about ten metres away, making a distinct shushing sound followed by a clunking sound as it hit the rocks and bounced off down the hill. They all cocked their heads towards the sound and ran towards it.
“Now! Move!” Jessica whispered quickly as she slid down off the outcrop with her hands on the rocks and her feet in front of her. Pete followed her completely bemused and shocked at what had just happened. She had thought and acted so quickly with no consultation, but rather than feel hurt or angry he admired her, realizing what she had done just may save them.
They moved quickly and quietly down the mountain moving slowly away from the track and the attackers and it was working they seemed to have lost them when they came out to a steep section about five hundred metres from the road. It was like trying to walk over ball bearings. The incline was forty five degrees and the ground was covered in sharp granite gravel created over centuries of movement, rubbing together and erosion. The noise it made as the two tried to keep upright whilst slipping downhill, was both loud and high pitched in this quiet still air. They had started a mini avalanche due to the shape of the rocks and the steepness of the ground. The sound traveled up the mountain to the infected hunters who were able to get a good fix on where they were an began to close the gap again.
“Fuck it, Pete run for it they had to have heard all the noise we made, we have to get to the road and flag down a passing car or something, hurry!”
“And if there are no cars?”
“We keep running until we find help” She replied pushing a branch aside to go past. The worst aspect of this new dilemma was that they were not on any track so the going was slow and they could not risk moving back towards the track as they had no idea where their hunters were. After all the noise they had just made, they could pretty much guess they would not be far behind given they were on a well worn track.
Just before they got to the road Pete noticed a barbed wire fence on the opposite side and an old star stake that had rusted at ground level and fallen over. He picked it up and helped Jessica climb the heavy hardwood post that the fence was attached to. He then threw the star stake over and launched himself up and over to the other side. Jessica ran towards the middle of the paddock but Pete stopped at the fence with the stake in his hand, waiting.
“Come on Pete, hurry!” she cried.
“Be there in a sec” replied Pete. The first of the infected rednecks came running madly from the track a little to the left and the idiot tried to run straight through the fence. The barbed wire tore into his chest, throwing him backwards and onto the ground. Pete found it incredibly disturbing that he made no screams of pain, but instead grunted and kept trying to reach the two. As he came back Pete swung the stake with all the force he could muster hitting him in the chest ripping a huge chunk of his arm and chest out. Still he raged on trying to get to Pete. The guy was full of murderous rage and each time Pete swung he went down, but always stood up again, lashing out with his hands and hissing some garbled abuse at Pete.
Pete was in crisis trying to figure it all out. He did not want to kill the guy, but the blows didn’t seem to even slightly dampen maniac’s resolve to get at him.
“Stay down you stupid dick” as he went for him again this time the stake ripped through the thing’s neck, his head falling sickeningly to the side and dark red thick blood spurted out to the side. Pete could not fight the urge to throw up any more, all that blood, and the stench, he had never smelt anything this bad in all his life. A second guy also came off the track and ran straight across the road only to do the same stupid thing, run headlong into a lethal barbed wire fence. The first one was now on the ground writhing violently, covered in his own blood, which was black and congealed and flowing out slowly, like treacle as he pulled himself under the fence toward Pete, who was now busy retching up his wine and lunch just a few metres away.
“Why are they so fucking stupid?” Pete said to himself looking at the two attackers fighting with the fence. Anyone knows you can’t run through a barbed wire fence, Christ even a three year old knows that he thought.
The other two were now coming out of the woods on the far side of the road and were running toward the noise.
“Pete, move! They’re coming, quick!” screamed Jessica from where she had stopped fifty or sixty metres away.
Pete now had to be a little more firm. This time he drove the metal stake straight through the guys face pinning him to the ground. This time he stopped moving.
“Fuck, I killed a guy” he kept saying over and over as he ran towards where Jessica was standing, with both hands over her face in sheer terror and disbelief.
“Something is really wrong here Pete, that guy looked and smelt dead and yet he was attempting to kill you back there, doesn’t make sense at all” she said.
“Walking dead, maybe they actually are walking dead or zombies. Otherwise I just fucking murdered some guy and his dead mates are witnesses. I am now a murderer!”
“I don’t think any court would see it like that. Lets get moving before his three idiot friends figure out how to get through that fence.”
The other three guys were slamming themselves into the fence, bouncing back and stumbling onto the ground. One had become badly tangled and was thrashing about, desperately attempting to break free but succeeding only in ripping more flesh off his ghastly pale grey and wildly animated body. One of the others was kneeling holding the lowest strand of barbed wire in one hand and looking under. Was he learning to figure stuff out, to solve simple problems? Pete thought to himself. For now he just wanted to get the hell away from here before those lunatics decide to wriggle under the fence. Pete turned and caught up to Jess.
“So psychotic, what do they want with us?” questioned Jessica.
“Us, they want us, and if, for some unbelievable reason, they are zombies, which, by the way, don’t exist, then they probably feel the urge to eat our brains. We can at least assume it is some kind of viral madness, or even some psychedelic shit they took, so I say we just go get help” replied Pete.
They kept moving quickly toward a farm house at the end of the paddock. As they got closer they could see someone in the yard on all fours, gardening perhaps, thought Jessica.
“Hello, hello” inquired Jessica, but the farmer did not seem to hear and kept… gardening or something.
“Shhh!” Pete whispered as he grabbed her arm, “He does not look right to me, lets just be quiet, get a little closer, until we can see what he is doing”.
As they got closer, their hearts sank to rock bottom, the guy looked just like the other four and he was ripping bits of flesh from what was left of a young woman. He was covered in blood and had pieces of sinewy flesh hanging from his mouth. Suddenly he spun around to face Pete and Jessica, his head facing them and upwards.
“He is sniffing at the air, just like those other guys, I think he can smell us” Jessica whispered.
“No, I think he is listening to us, he is not sniffing but cocking his head from side to side and moving around as if to scan with his ears, but it looks like sniffing too.” She was now whispering.
Suddenly he got to his feet, growled at them and began to run, slowly at first, then faster as he saw them.
“Shit, lets go, NOW!” cried Pete. They had a good forty metres between them and the farmer.
“Lets double back toward the house once he gets here, maybe we can get a gun and a car from there” Pete said as he and Jessica rounded the dam and the outcrop of privet.
“You mean we steal someone’s stuff?”
“You got any better ideas? I myself, am beyond worrying about anything except our survival right now” said Jessica.
They waited until the farmer was across the dam from them then headed straight back toward the house. Their path was obscured from the farmer by the bushes, so they figured it should take him a while to work out where they had gone.
As they got there, they could see the girl on the grass, her clothes were ripped and so was her flesh. He face was mostly gone and the sight caused Jessica to vomit as she ran past. She held her head to the side to avoid getting herself covered with her own spew, but she kept moving. The farmer was now around the dam and heading back, fast. They went straight in and locked the door.
“We have got to check the house and lock all the windows and doors and find some type of weapon and quickly”
“Let’s stay close together and cover each others blind spots” said Jessica squeezing his hand and desperately fighting off the urge to scream her head off. She trembled, as if she were cold, but the shiver came purely from fear.
“Are you kidding, you’re not getting an inch away from me girl”
The house was clear so far, just the bedroom to go. They could now hear moaning noises coming from the bedroom and terrified, they inched toward the door. They both had knives from the kitchen, but this brought little comfort, considering what they could be facing in that room.
As they opened the door they could see a woman on the bed, she looked really sick but not quite like the others. She gestured toward them as she saw them.
“It’s okay, I won’t hurt you, at least not yet, you guys are safe for a while, but you have got to get out of here if I die.” said the woman on the bed who was struggling to breath, let alone sit up. One arm was bandaged and there was blood oozing out through the gauze. She began to cough, blood splattering her hand as she covered her face.
“Don’t worry I’ve been doing this for an hour now since my bastard of a dead husband bit my arm” she said through more coughing,
“don’t know how long I’ve got, but please don’t stick around when I’m gone, that’s what got me this” she said pointing to her arm.
“George came home from town and said there were crazy people everywhere and as he got into his Ute, some guy reached in, grabbed his head and bit his ear clean off as he drove away. He went to the hospital, but said it was madness up there, so he came straight home.”
“What? did he just bite you then?” asked Pete.
“No, no, I disinfected and bandaged his wound, then gave him some aspirin and a bottle of scotch but within hours he had turned blue and then went into a sort of a coma I suppose for a couple of minutes I guess. I tried to ring for help but the lines were all busy.” She began to cough more blood each time, sometimes she slumped back to the bed and fought her way back to a semi sitting position then continued the grueling tale.
“George was unconscious in the back room, so I gave put a sheet over him and tried to figure out what to do next. That’s when our daughter came home. She wanted to see George, and while we were sitting there with his body, he suddenly opened his eyes, and screamed.” She began to sob now.
“Sorry, I have not even introduced myself, how rude, I’m Margret,” she continued, trying to make light of her desperately hopeless situation. Jessica admired how strong of mind this woman was.
“Look, mam, you don’t have to keep talking, you should maybe rest a little, don’t you think,” Pete chipped in.
“No, what I have to say, may save your life, anyway, where was I… that’s right, Sarah, our daughter, what a hero. George, after he screamed, turned on me and did this jumping on top of me” she said pointing to her bitten arm.
“Sarah tried to pull him off me, but he kept biting my arm. Then she kicked him fair in the head and he spun around and went for her too. She ran to the door and yelled to me to ring the hospital while she lured him away, calling to him. He ran straight at her but she was too fast and led him off up the paddock. When I knew she was safely away I fixed this bandage, then I was too sick to do anything but lie down.” She began to sob more now, her tears mixing with the blood as she wiped her eyes.
“Where’s your daughter now Margaret?” asked Jessica..
“That’s her you passed in the yard, she doubled back thinking she had lost him but as she came back to the house for me he jumped her, her screams, my God, I will take those screams to my grave, she kept screaming no dad! No dad please! over and over, then it all went quiet, till you got here that is”.
“So your saying George came back to life like a zombie? We all know that’s just a bit on the weird side don’t you think?” Asked Jessica.
“Don’t know about bloody zombies love, but yes, he was off with them pixies, almost no pulse and no fog on the mirror kind of thing, then a couple of minutes later my George turned into that monster you saw out there” Margaret said fighting back more tears.
“Look, you can’t stay here, I am going to end up all mad like George soon too, so grab the shot gun, in the wardrobe there, and there’s a couple of boxes of shells there too, the keys to the Ute are here.” Margaret handed Jessica the keys from the bedside table.
Just then there was a loud crash on the back door, followed by another and another. George was back.
“Go please you have to go, he’s at the back door you can go straight out the front and the Ute is only a few metres away. jump in and go, but stay away from town, now go!” cried Margaret as she collapsed back to the bed in a fit of violent dry retches.
Pete had the gun and shells and was stuffing his pockets with ammunition as Jessica grabbed his arm and pulled him towards the bedroom door. The back door began to give way as they unlocked the front. Suddenly it burst open and George stormed in, raging hate filled and hungry for the kill. Pete slammed the door shut as George threw his body into it shattering some of the glass panels. He thrust his hand through almost reaching Jessica as she left the verandah.
“You drive Jess”, yelled Pete, as he chambered a round and snapped the barrel shut as they jumped into the Ute. George was through the door and down the steps before they had closed the doors and made a lunge at Jessica through the still open window, as she fumbled with the keys in the ignition. She hadn’t even noticed Pete jump out of the car as she fired up the engine. He had one foot in the car and one on the ground. There was a really loud bang and she was immediately covered in blood and sinew. She spat and screamed as she pulled the shift into drive and floored the accelerator pedal sending Peter sprawling onto the ground.
He was standing one leg on the ground and the shot gun in his hand, elbows resting on the roof when he fired point blank at George’s head spraying hair, brains and blood in all directions. His body dropped like a sack of shit onto the road and was still. As the Ute sped off he was thrown to the ground but clear of George and the Ute. There was a screeching sound as Jessica hit the breaks and threw the shift into reverse spraying the gravel from the driveway everywhere.
“Sorry” she said with a mock smile, as she stopped next to where Pete was, still sitting in shock on the ground.
“and hey, thanks for this,” she said pointing the her blood soaked face. “We are stopping by the river so I can wash, god knows what cuties are in this shit.”
“I couldn’t fire that thing in the car, we’d both be deaf, sorry but I had to finish him quick” he said loading the shot gun and clicking the safety on.
“I don’t know about you and I feel quite mad to say this, but I think this some kind of infection, causing murderous psychosis of some kind, These things,they bite, eat people and die only when you destroy their head, or most of their body.
I think I am in shock but I just can’t believe it that’s all. I saw it, you saw it too, am I dreaming Jess?”
“I wish I bloody was”, she added,
“Where too now?”
“Well town is east, so lets go north, south or west”
“Sounds good to me, I’m staving” said Pete.